In the weeks leading up to the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix, two major themes worked through the Formula 1 landscape: Speed, and cold. With race promoters and simulators indicating the track — and the longest straight on the F1 schedule — would produce speeds comparable to Monza, drivers prepared for one of the fastest races of the season. Then, with temperatures expected to be on the cooler side for a night race, teams began thinking about trying to get the tires in the right window during qualifying, and the race itself.
But during Wednesday’s driver press conferences ahead of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a new theme emerged.
Specifically, jet lag. With the majority of drivers coming to the West Coast from Europe, getting acclimated to the time change is going to be another challenge this week. What might complicate matters? By the time they get used to the time change, they might be on a flight out of Las Vegas and to Abu Dhabi, for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was a focus of discussion on Wednesday night.
“It is going to be big time difference, and we’ll probably face jet lag. Some suffer more than others,” said Haas driver Nico Hülkenberg. “It’s going to be a challenge, you know, and maybe you’re not going to feel super sharp on Friday or Saturday, but I think it’s same for all of us and we have to manage and cope the best we can.”
“Definitely,” agreed Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu. “Jet lag is there, especially after you’ve just been through a triple-header, you go home for a week, going back in the factory for the simulator and you’re back here again. I tried to be as early as possible, but it’s the same for everyone. But that’s the whole thing with the busy schedule. I think everybody has to live this way at the moment.”
Alpine driver Pierre Gasly outlined how during his off week he tried to prepare for the time change, and how the drivers are supported in such an effort.
But he also outlined how the shift from the West Coast, to the Middle East, will pose a problem heading into next week.
“Well, so far I don’t have any problem with jetlag, I fell asleep at 6 am last night and woke up at two this morning, I mean 2 pm, so that was fine. But I think next week is going to be a big challenge. So try to follow my jetlag plan as much as we can.
“We’re supported by doctors, performance coach etc. So everyone’s trying their best to give us the best preparation and you don’t tackle the jetlag the day you’re moving here. It’s a work that already… last week when I was in Paris, I was already setting myself up for this week. So this week is fine. I’ve never… yeah, in my life it’s going to be the first time I’m moving from one side of the globe to the complete opposite side within a few days, so I don’t really know how I’m going to be feeling, but I know I’ve got my strategy in place and I’ll try to stick to it as much as I can,” added Gasly. “It’s the last run of the year, so I know what’s the personal target for me. I know I’ll enjoy the last bit of racing in Abu Dhabi and I’ll miss it for the next two months. So I’m sure with the adrenaline, I’ll be fine.”
Adrenaline seemed to be a common point from the drivers, that while you might be tired when you climb into the cockpit of an F1 car, the rush of pushing that car to the limit will wake you up in a hurry.
“Yeah, I’m currently quite sleepy. So, for me it’s hitting a little bit. But yeah, I mean, jet lag… from the last three years for me, you get used to it,” said Yuki Tsunoda. “The last three grands prix were definitely tough for me. And Abu Dhabi, I don’t know how much difference, but yeah, should get used to it. I mean, as soon as I drive, it should be OK.”
“Yeah, I think once comes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, caffeine shots, espressos or adrenaline that is needed to drive an F1 car normally removes the jetlag,” added Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr.
However, at least one driver detailed that they were not feeling the effects of jet lag, at least on Wednesday night.
Mercedes driver and seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton.
“I personally have not found it a problem: still managed to keep the training up and I feel great at this point in the year. Saw the drivers in there before, all complaining about the jet lag. Jet lag is something that’s probably can get all of us but I’ve not found it a problem since I’ve been here.
“It is demanding but we know that, entering the sport. We know what a season entails and those three back-to-backs were definitely tough but if it was easy, everyone would do it. I think I’ve always just tried to be conscious of the mechanics and all the people that work… everyone in this room and everyone in the teams that are moving around and away from their families a lot,” added Hamilton. “That’s probably the hardest thing from their perspective but they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, I’m pretty sure they love what they do, as do I.”